Many industries have adapted to flexible working in one way or another, whether to support a better work-life balance, to help staff manage their childcare or to be the employer of choice in a competitive market. But what about the social care sector?
Social care has accommodated flexible working in areas such as organising shifts around busy schedules or personal commitments, but employees are looking for more from their employers.
According to The King’s Fund, ‘…pay is not the only factor in recruitment. Employees also value good working conditions, especially flexibility.’ It is becoming more vital that social care providers offer competitive flexibility, especially as the industry continues to suffer with high vacancy rates and retention struggles.
In this article, we’re exploring the benefits and challenges that flexible working brings to social care and how digital tools can provide much needed support when offering more flexibility for staff.
Benefits of flexible working in social care
Wider recruitment pool
It’s widely acknowledged that the social care sector has struggled with recruitment. The new starter rate has dropped since 2018/19 from 37.3% to 30.8%. In other words, fewer people are entering the workforce now compared to a few years ago. And with high levels of staff turnover, this means there are less applicants available to replace those who are leaving.
By offering competitive flexible working, you are likely to see a wider variety of people applying to open vacancies who may have previously been unaccommodated for, such as students. Perhaps you can offer an alternative approach to flexibility - some applicants may be interested in job sharing, job rotation or to be able to work from home. The more options you can offer, the wider your recruitment pool becomes.
Better work-life balance
According to a 2022 report by Unison, 79% of social care staff cited the lack of work-life balance as a deep concern. Care England also found that almost half of social care staff said in their exit interviews that stress was their reason for leaving.
And with 165,000 vacancies in adult social care in 2021/22, having a better work-life balance could be a key factor in encouraging staff to stay with your organisation. Flexible working can help with this. Employees can gain more freedom over their schedules, whether than means your office staff can work from home or utilise compressed hours, or your care workers can rotate roles or move shifts around personal commitments.
Hybrid working is a form of flexibility, where your staff can work from different locations such as the office, from home or on the go. In social care, domiciliary care staff may be able to effectively operate from their home base between clients, and it is even possible in residential care for some administrative tasks to be completed by managers remotely.
And it’s easier than ever with the help of cloud-based technologies as systems can be accessed from any location. This can allow you care-facing staff members to access care notes whilst on the go or at the point of care. And your non-care facing employees can update rotas or invoices in real-time without having to be on-site.
Challenges of flexible working in social care
Care and non-care staff
Social care is made up of both care facing and non-care facing staff. And different roles require different types of flexibility. We recognise that it can be difficult to accommodate flexible working needs to such a variety of roles as your care coordinators or office-based staff will have different needs compared to your client facing support workers.
To get a clear picture of the needs in your organisation, you may want to ask what your current care and non-care teams are benefitting from in terms of flexibility and to know what you could do to be a more accommodating employer.
Flexible working attracts many people into social care, but some flexibility may not be compatible to their needs or is different to what they expected. Unsociable hours, changing rotas and travelling long distances are undesirable to some applicants who are looking for flexibility from their role. And in some cases, these differing expectations or lack of clarity may push new starters to seek other opportunities, further adding to retention struggles.
It’s important to have a clear job description and to discuss the needs of the role throughout the recruitment process. Find out what flexibility the applicant is looking for so you can examine the sort of opportunities you can offer.
Meeting high demand
Ultimately, you need to have enough staff in every day to meet the growing demand for care. Coupled with retention and recruitment struggles, offering flexible working can be an additional pressure on providers, as plans can change last minute and you need to find cover, or you simply haven’t got the numbers to start with.
If you're not currently in a position to offer more flexibility for your staff, it’s still important to have a main hub or office space for all your team to check-in with you. This not only helps you manage your team, but it also helps nuture team morale during stressful times as everyone can come together for support.
How technology can support flexible working in social care
As applicants enter the recruitment process, you want to capture their details and start the initial conversation as soon as possible (so you don’t lose them). Digital tools can make the entire process easier. From capturing when someone is available for recruitment to collecting the necessary documentation and flexibility requests, you have complete recruitment oversight whether you’re at the office or working from home.
Technologies offer visual and intuitive dashboards, helping you handle both the day-to-day and complex requirements. You can seamlessly manage the regular roster, the daily roster and ad hoc visits without compromising the original schedule. A digital solution can also calculate payroll according to shift types, considering whether the employee is salaried or has multiple contracts.
Mobile accessibility means both you and your staff can view schedules whilst on the go, either on a mobile device or from a remote desktop. This allows for greater predictability as your staff have advanced notice of their schedules and gives them the opportunity to provide input into any flexibility considerations.
Advanced Care Cloud is our optimised cloud-based, care business management solution, designed for any type of care or support provider.
No matter the size of your care or support organisation, or whether you provide domiciliary, residential, supported living, retirement living or extra care, Advanced Care Cloud has got you covered.